The question is very simple: Who chooses the number of reviewers that will peer-review a submitted paper on a journal (for Round 1)? Also, if there are more than 2 reviewers (2 I believe is the mainstream), does this show something about the quality of the journal? Does it show something else/more that I don't "see" right now?


1 Answer 1


The handling editor of the paper does this. In some cases this is the journal editor (or one of them), in many cases this is the associate editor nominated by the main editor. It could also be a Special Issue guest editor.

Note that this is a random process. Although some journals officially require three reviewers (or even more), it is always hard to predict how many reviewers will agree to review and then actually do the work, and the "journal quality" is probably only a small factor in this.

So a journal in which regularly two reviews are collected, can occasionally have three or even more just because the handling editor asked more people having in mind that one or more may drop out (and then it doesn't happen). Or further reviewers are invited because a received report is not very informative.

Also an editor of a journal that aims for three or more reviewers may decide to be happy with two if at a certain point in time two reports are in and there is reason to believe that all further invited reviewers have dropped out so that going for three would add substantial waiting time; or if the two reports available give a clear picture already. An editor may even decide that a single review already "kills" the paper making a convincing and strong case against it.

In principle you could think that a "three (or more) reviewer policy" is better for a journal quality-wise, but of course this may also lead to delays, and may often not be consistently applied. So I wouldn't necessarily assume that really good journals will always provide three or more reports.

  • 1
    Note that the journal itself, likely through an "editorial board" sets a policy for the desired number of reviews. As this post explains it isn't always possible to adhere strictly to that policy, both because of the nature of reviewers and the nature of papers.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jan 17 at 13:09

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